What is Identity Crime

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What is Identity Crime

Identity crimes are those in which there is a fraudulent use of another person's identifying information with the intent to commit other criminal activities or to obtain credit, goods, or services without the victim's consent. No financial loss is necessary.4

A person commits an identity crime if he or she:

  • Knowingly possesses or uses the personal identifying information, financial identifying information, or financial transaction device of another without permission to obtain cash, credit, property, services, or any other things of value.
  • Falsely makes, completes, or alters a document or financial transaction device containing any personal identifying information of another person, with the intent to defraud.
  • Knowingly uses or possesses the personal identifying information of another without permission or lawful authority to obtain a government-issued document.
  • Attempts, conspires with another, or solicits another to commit any of these acts.

Personal identifying information is defined as information that, alone or in conjunction with other information, identifies an individual, including but not limited to such individual's:

  • Name, address or birth date.
  • Telephone, Social Security, taxpayer identification, driver's license, identification card, alien registration, government passport, checking, savings, deposit and credit, debit or other payment card account number.
  • Biometric data, defined as data, such as fingerprints, voice prints, or retina and iris prints that capture, represent or enable the reproduction of the unique physical attributes of an individual.
  • Unique electronic identification devices or telecommunication identifying device, meaning a number, or magnetic or electronic device that enables the holder to use telecommunications technology to access an account, obtain money, goods, services or transfer funds.

Financial transaction device means any instrument or device whether known as a credit card, banking card, debit card, electronic funds transfer or stored value card, or account number representing a financial account or affecting the financial interest, standing, or obligation of or to the account holder, that can be used to obtain cash, goods, property, services or to make financial payments. A person commits unauthorized use of a financial transaction device or account number if he uses such device or number for the purpose of obtaining cash, credit, property, services or for making financial payment, with intent to defraud, and with notice that either the financial transaction device has expired, has been revoked, or has been cancelled; or for any reason this use of the financial transaction device is unauthorized either by the issuer or by the account holder.

Data is imperfect in helping to determine the frequency of identity crime as well as the total damages to victims, in part because these crimes often go unreported to law enforcement. Regardless, the rates are very high (as many as 6.4 million new households are affected annually, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics5), and by many estimates, the numbers are rising. The incidence of identity crime via e-mail or telephone order purchases or transactions alone leapt from 3% in 2006 to 40% in 20076. Of equally urgent concern is that the methods of committing these crimes change quickly – perpetrators are gaining in sophistication, making it all the more important for law enforcement to stay current on the trends and techniques in identity crime.6

4It is important to note that this definition is a law enforcement definition; other industries (financial institutions, regulators) may use definitions which include additional elements. It is also useful to note that identity thieves range from opportunists who steal and use a credit card on a single occasion to organized crime operations, sometimes international in nature. The common element is the fraudulent use of the victim’s personal identifying information.

5Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report on Identity Theft, 2005 - http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/it05.pdf.

62008 Identity Fraud Survey Report, Javelin Strategy & Research, February 2008, pages 2-3.

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What is Identity Crime

Identity crimes are those in which there is a fraudulent use of another person's identifying information with the intent to commit other criminal activities or to obtain credit, goods, or services without the victim's consent. No financial loss is necessary.4

A person commits an identity crime if he or she:

  • Knowingly possesses or uses the personal identifying information, financial identifying information, or financial transaction device of another without permission to obtain cash, credit, property, services, or any other things of value.
  • Falsely makes, completes, or alters a document or financial transaction device containing any personal identifying information of another person, with the intent to defraud.
  • Knowingly uses or possesses the personal identifying information of another without permission or lawful authority to obtain a government-issued document.
  • Attempts, conspires with another, or solicits another to commit any of these acts.

Personal identifying information is defined as information that, alone or in conjunction with other information, identifies an individual, including but not limited to such individual's:

  • Name, address or birth date.
  • Telephone, Social Security, taxpayer identification, driver's license, identification card, alien registration, government passport, checking, savings, deposit and credit, debit or other payment card account number.
  • Biometric data, defined as data, such as fingerprints, voice prints, or retina and iris prints that capture, represent or enable the reproduction of the unique physical attributes of an individual.
  • Unique electronic identification devices or telecommunication identifying device, meaning a number, or magnetic or electronic device that enables the holder to use telecommunications technology to access an account, obtain money, goods, services or transfer funds.

Financial transaction device means any instrument or device whether known as a credit card, banking card, debit card, electronic funds transfer or stored value card, or account number representing a financial account or affecting the financial interest, standing, or obligation of or to the account holder, that can be used to obtain cash, goods, property, services or to make financial payments. A person commits unauthorized use of a financial transaction device or account number if he uses such device or number for the purpose of obtaining cash, credit, property, services or for making financial payment, with intent to defraud, and with notice that either the financial transaction device has expired, has been revoked, or has been cancelled; or for any reason this use of the financial transaction device is unauthorized either by the issuer or by the account holder.

Data is imperfect in helping to determine the frequency of identity crime as well as the total damages to victims, in part because these crimes often go unreported to law enforcement. Regardless, the rates are very high (as many as 6.4 million new households are affected annually, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics5), and by many estimates, the numbers are rising. The incidence of identity crime via e-mail or telephone order purchases or transactions alone leapt from 3% in 2006 to 40% in 20076. Of equally urgent concern is that the methods of committing these crimes change quickly – perpetrators are gaining in sophistication, making it all the more important for law enforcement to stay current on the trends and techniques in identity crime.6

4It is important to note that this definition is a law enforcement definition; other industries (financial institutions, regulators) may use definitions which include additional elements. It is also useful to note that identity thieves range from opportunists who steal and use a credit card on a single occasion to organized crime operations, sometimes international in nature. The common element is the fraudulent use of the victim’s personal identifying information.

5Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report on Identity Theft, 2005 - http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/it05.pdf.

62008 Identity Fraud Survey Report, Javelin Strategy & Research, February 2008, pages 2-3.